Either/Or It Is Not
What I like about this line from Kierkegaard, the early 19th century Danish religious philosopher who anticipated existentialism through his rigorous meditations on life, choice, and God, is that it implies the individual has within himself the capacity to be many different things. Why? Because if he or she is unfettered by his or her adherence to the past due to memory, and leans on that as the source of their identity, their beliefs, or their sense of truth, they can be in a state of "becoming."
Basically, one is in a flexible state, able to experience and "be" many things. This is not to say that a decision about what one is or wants to be is never made, simply that the options of what that might be are open and that it could be the possibility for multiple experiences are necessary -- and multiple states of being are necessary -- before a decision about what one is or wants to be is made.
I'll let you decide for yourself about the access it gives us to the divinity of our own lives.
Online advertising and the larger marketing context to which it belongs is just that sort of creature experiencing just these sorts of possibilities. It is not fixed. It has gone through several metamorphoses, with more to come, no doubt. Because of this, the digital media and marketing space has been and can be many different things.
The debate has long-been had (and I would posit "settled" but that is just my opinion) as to the virtues of the digital medium, specifically Internet advertising: direct-response or branding? Is it passive or active? Lean-forward or lean-back?
Well, advertising and the Internet are all these things. In fact, online advertising is all things you can think it is and a whole mess o' things you can't. But that shouldn't mean that marketers and agency professionals shouldn't make attempt from time to time to identify the strengths and weakness of the medium in order to define what it is and how it can be used. I realize that, to paraphrase Wayne Campbell, that either Kierkegaard or Dick Van Patten said, "to label me is to negate me." But labeling and naming helps to bring order to chaos and make thinking and communicating thought much easier.
Last week I made the suggestion that there was something to be considered when looking at you or your client's advertising and that consideration was advertising to sales ratio. Looking at advertising in terms of investments yielding return shouldn't be that far away from the minds of advertising strategists and planners, nor should it be looked at as something crazy.
An over-emphasis on accountability may have pigeon-holed the Internet as an advertising medium initially, but that doesn't mean that we should walk away from it. Nor does it mean that just because other media aren't held to those kinds of standards doesn't mean that we should no longer expect it from the Interactive space.
Some have suggested that we no longer expect the kind of accountability from the interactive medium not because it is no longer capable of being accountable, but because other media aren't held to the same standards. That is like saying we should no longer expect a student to do A-work because everyone else in the class is getting C's. I for one believe that in order to prevent the subjugation of the weak to the will of the strong, we make everything strong rather than making everything weak.
I am not making the suggestion that the medium is good only as a distribution channel, direct response vehicle, or only good when applying cost-per-whatever metrics; nor should it be viewed as such. But I do think that those who use it in that way should consider the idea that dollar-in versus dollar-out is a valuable relationship to consider.
In fact, I think that ALL advertisers conducting ANY advertising at all should keep this relationship in mind if they are interested in staying in business for long. If I keep spending $100 on advertising an only generate $1 in revenue from it, I will soon be out of $100 bills.
I'm not making the assertion that we are talking about an either/or proposition when talking about the strengths of the Internet as an advertising medium. I have written repeatedly on this topic over the years and have said each time that the medium is actually best suited to a synthesis of both correlative and causal relationships between advertising events and the responses they elicit.
The intention here is not to pigeon-hole the medium but to point out and remind people that we must not forget that when all is said and done, advertising really is about moving product, and clients focused on doing that would do well to have advertising programs designed and constructed moving product a core principle.